The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

5 November 2005

Next-season buzz

The Oklahoman's Jenni Carlson is pretty sure the Hornets will be back here next year:

[T]his is a question of whether the franchise will exercise the option in its contract with Oklahoma City to return for the 2006-07 season and make the Ford Center its temporary home for a second year.

"We'll know by the middle of January," [owner George] Shinn said.

The main reason: season tickets.

"Best practice in the NBA is to get season-ticket renewal information into the hands of ticket holders early," he said. "That usually means February."

Of course, things have a way of happening faster than usual when it comes to the Hornets — for an indication of just how fast, see Scott Cooper's cover story in last week's Gazette — but the factor here is not how fast Shinn's organization can move, but how fast New Orleans can be rebuilt. Says Carlson:

There's a housing development in New Orleans called C. J. Peete. The neighborhood is less than a mile southwest of the New Orleans Arena, where the Hornets played their home games, and it has more than a thousand homes. That's about half the size of Newcastle. Now, all of it is uninhabited. Uninhabitable, too.

New Orleans' housing authority has already tagged C. J. Peete and one other neighborhood for total gutting and rebuilding. Work has started in that other development, but no one will be able to move in until June. And that's a best-case scenario.

If you're thinking from this that C. J. Peete was otherwise functional before Katrina, think again: the Housing Authority of New Orleans started demolition in 1998. Things apparently don't move quite so quickly in the Big Easy.

Carlson concludes that a second year for the Hornets here in the Big Breezy is pretty much inevitable, and she's probably right, but what happens after that? Everybody — George Shinn, NBA Commissioner David Stern, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett — is absolutely positive that the Hornets will go back home.

Eventually.

Whenever that is.

Chris Sheridan of ESPN thinks two years is the limit:

Stern appears to be giving Shinn no wiggle room to stay in Oklahoma City for more than two years, and the commissioner does not want to leave a legacy of having failed twice in the Crescent City. (The Jazz played in New Orleans before moving to Utah in 1979.)

So the real-life deadline, in effect, is January 2007. Certainly by then there will be substantial progress toward the restoration of New Orleans. Let's hope so, anyway.

Posted at 7:05 AM to Net Proceeds